I’ve always thought lentils were interesting — they’re not quite a pea and they’re not quite a bean, but they are a member of the legume family and as such they make great salads and soups. Nowadays, the standard brown soup lentils of my childhood have given way to speckled round French lentils, flat green lentils, tiny black lentils, even red lentils that cook in 10 minutes flat and are easily puréed into dips and formed into patties. The lentil’s the limit!
While lentils are often combined with spiced rice — particularly in the Middle East, where lentils are a staple the way kidney beans are in the U.S. — my hankering for lentil soup hasn’t abated, not even when the cold days of winter have passed and spring is on the way. Besides, in fitting with the season, this light lentil-vegetable soup features summery Mediterranean flavors like rosemary and Feta.
Lentil & Spinach Soup
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a hearty side.
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
32 oz. vegetable stock
3/4 cup to 1 cup lentils, depending on how thick you want your soup — the more lentils you have, the thicker it will be (I used a combination of French lentils and flat green lentils)*
1 tsp. rosemary
1 cup chopped spinach, fresh or frozen
Sea salt & freshly-cracked pepper to taste
Feta cheese for garnish, preferably sheep’s-milk Feta
In a large stockpot, sautée onions and carrots in 1 T. butter or ghee over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Your goal here is to allow the onions time to caramelize and build up flavor. (The carrots will do well slow-cooked, too, although they won’t caramelize as much as the onions will.) If you’re in a hurry, cook the onions and carrots for 5 minutes at medium-high heat, then proceed with recipe.
Stir in vegetable stock, raise temperature slightly — enough to bring the mixture to a gentle simmer — and let cook for 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot to bring up the caramelized flavors. Add lentils and rosemary and simmer for another 20 minutes. Lentils should be just slightly firm to the tooth — if they’re more like little pebbles, simmer for another 5 minutes and test them again. Stir in spinach, reduce heat to low, and barely simmer for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve garnished with a generous sprinkling of Feta.
* Any lentil except red lentil should work well — because red lentils have had their husks removed, trying to simmer them into soup will turn them into mush.